Is the Nissan Leaf all the EV you need, or should you wait for Tesla’s Model
October 11, 2017  Ronan Glon

Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf highlights

The original Nissan Leaf enjoyed an enviable monopoly on the affordable
electric vehicle segment when it made its debut in 2010. The brand-new
second-generation model introduced recently is getting catapulted into the
same ring, but times have changed and it’s no longer the only option on the
market for motorists who want to kick their gas habit without breaking the
bank. One of its close rivals is the Tesla Model 3, the brand’s
much-ballyhooed mass-market model.

The Leaf and the Model 3 are a lot alike in some ways, and polar opposites
in others. We break down the differences and the similarities.

Tech features

The Leaf ushers in Nissan’s ProPilot Assist technology. Offered at an extra
cost, it’s a suite of electronic driving aids designed to help out when
driving becomes tedious, dangerous, or plain boring. It functions in
stop-and-go traffic on single-lane highways, and it’s active between 18 and
62 mph. It controls braking, acceleration, and steering. It doesn’t turn the
Leaf into a fully autonomous car, but Nissan hinted it will add more
features to ProPilot Assist in the coming years. Full autonomy is the
company’s end goal, though it’s several years away from becoming a reality.

The Model 3 is available with Tesla’s Autopilot technology as an option.
When the right conditions are met, the Model 3 is capable of changing lanes,
reading speed limit signs, navigating freeway offramps, and even parking all
by itself. Autopilot sets buyers back $5,000, so it’s not cheap by any
means, but it makes the Model 3 considerably more high-tech than the Leaf.
Like Nissan, Tesla promises it will roll out full autonomy as soon as
engineers, lawmakers, and consumers are finally in sync.

Performance and range

This is the area in which the Leaf and the Model 3 differ the most. The
Leaf’s drivetrain consists of an electric motor that zaps the front wheels
with 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of instant torque. Its 40-kWh
lithium-ion battery pack only provides 150 miles of range, which is much
better than the last-gen model’s 107-mile range but still not enough to tick
the coveted “long-range” box. Nissan promises a second version of the Leaf
with more power and more range will join the lineup in time for the 2019
model year. Rumors point to 200 miles of range, though nothing is official

Tesla has opted not to release official horsepower and torque figures for
the Model 3. In its most basic configuration, the rear-wheel drive sedan
offers a 50-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that delivers up to 220 miles of
range. Buyers willing to spend an extra $9,000 can unlock a 70-kWh battery
with 310 miles of range.

The Model 3 performs the benchmark 0-to-60-mph sprint in 5.6 seconds with
the smaller battery, and in 5.1 seconds with the bigger unit. Nissan hasn’t
released performance figures for the Leaf yet.

Interior and exterior design

Both EVs are well executed; the Leaf looks more grown-up and far less alien
ship-esque than its predecessor, while the Model 3 adopts styling cues from
the bigger Model S and Model X. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so we
won’t comment on which one looks better.

The respective designs highlight the fact that, powertrain and price aside,
the Leaf and the Model 3 are significantly different answers to the same
question. The Leaf is a big hatchback developed with an emphasis on
practicality and ease of use, and its style reflects that. The Model 3 is a
compact sedan that plays the premium card to lure buyers away from the
Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the BMW 3 Series, and it certainly looks the part.

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